Richard Cassels (1690-1751), who anglicised his name to Richard Castle , ranked by Edward Lovett Pearce as one of the greatest architects working in Ireland in the 18th century. Cassel was born in 1690 in Kassel, Germany. Even German, his family was of French origin, derived from the Franco-Netherlandish ‘You Ry’ family, known to many architects among their number. A cousin Simon, you Ry designed Schloss Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel.

Early work

Richard Cassels, who originally trained as an engineer, came to Ireland in 1728 on behalf of Sir Gustav Hume County Fermanagh designing the Hume a mansion on the shores of Lough Erne. Hume had probably discovered Cassels works in London, where he was influenced by the circle of architects influenced by Lord Burlington. Cassels, shortly after arriving in Ireland, established a thriving architectural practice in Dublin. Architecturally at the time Dublin was an exciting place to be – Edward Lovett Pearce, also newly established in the city, working at Castletown House, the grand mansion of Speaker William Connolly, and the new Irish Houses of Parliament the same time. Both of these buildings were designed in the recently introduced Palladian style. Palladian architecture was currently enjoying a revival that would sweep across Europe and adopted with a glow in Ireland. Cassels was well versed in the concepts of Palladio and Vitruvius, but was also in favor of more baroque style.

In Dublin itself Cassels worked at the Houses of Parliament with Pearce, his mentor and friend. Cassels’ first solo mission was Printing House in Trinity College, to resemble a temple complete with a Doric portico. This portico was an interesting feature that symbolizes Cassels’ early works – a portico is an almost essential feature of Palladian architecture. But that Cassel’s work matured, he tended to just suggest a portico by semi-attached columns supporting a pediment as the focal point of a facade. Perhaps he felt the great Italian arcades that gave protection from the sun is not provided for the house in less clement Ireland. This blind, only suggested, the portico part of his last Dublin masterpiece Leinster House was built for the Earl of Kildare between 1745 and 1751. In 1741 he designed the Bishop’s Palace which is now part of the Waterford Treasures – three museums in the Viking Triangle, Waterford, Ireland. A comparison of the Printing House and Leinster House shows the development of the true Palladian style to, usually called, Georgian style in Ireland in the quarter century that Dublin would almost rebuilt.

Premature death of Edward Lovett Pearce, aged 34, in 1733, did Cassels Ireland’s leading architect working in the coveted Palladian style. He immediately adopted all Pearce’s mission and thus began designing a series of lavish mansions. After completion of the Houses of Parliament, it appeared to have been a rush of aristocracy to build a series of new townhouses in the same style and Cassels was often the first choice for the architect. This led to the creation of what came to be called Georgian Dublin.

For his exteriors he used a Palladian style that was distinctive for its strength and sobriety. In this he seems to have been influenced by Pearce and even James Gibbs. But when it came to the interiors, Cassels gave free rein to his love for the more continental baroque. The walls were covered with stucco reliefs, ceiling medallions and motifs of plaster segments moldings and carvings, in an almost rococo style peculiar to Ireland.

Notable works

Some of the finest works of Cassels starts are listed below. ( Date often varies from one source to another )

Trinity College, the Printing House

This perfect little Doric temple, completed in 1734, and is believed to be Cassels’ first major solo work. A four-columned portico of Doric columns projected from severe rusticated building and the whole is only the width of the portico. ( This building is sometimes attributed to Edward Lovett Pearce ).

Carton House (1739)

Main article: Carton House

Cassels made major changes to Carton House in Kildare from 1739 to 1745 for the Earl of Kildare. The resulting facade was in his usual restrained and symmetrical style. The large garden facade ends medvenetianska windows at each end, while in the center, is a single storey portico so restrained as to be almost a porch. The roof line is hidden by a balustrade, is broken by a pediment supported over the central Gulf. The interior is a riot of plaster-work ornamentation. The Lafranchini brothers, known for its plaster-work, performed some of his finest work here, and would work again with Cassels on Russborough.

The Conolly Folly

The Conolly Folly designed by him and built in 1740 as a park ornament for Castletown House.

Russborough House (1742)

Main article: Russborough House

Russborough was designed by Cassels Joseph Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown. It was built between 1741 and 1755. A central block containing the main rooms are flanked by curved and segmented colonnades leading to two symmetrical service building. The main entrance, in the center of one of Cassels brand “suggested” engineer, is on a raised piano nobile. It is reached by a wide staircase. The main feature of the interior is rococo plaster-work and ceiling, again by the master stuccoists Paul and Philip Lanfrachini; and ornate carved marble fireplaces, all contrasting with the austerity of the exterior.

Summer House (1731)

Summer House was a large Palladian mansion in County Meath originally Pearce, who died before the project began. Cassel took over the project and was responsible for Rococo interiors. The building was damaged by fire in 1920 and finally demolished in the 1970s.

Power House (1741)

Powers House, Wicklow, was a large country house, originally a 13th century castle, which was completely rebuilt by Cassels, beginning in 1730 and ending in 1741. The demesne was about 850 acres (3.4 km 2 ). The three-storey building had at least 68 rooms. The entrance was (18 m) long and 60 feet (12 meters) 40 feet wide where family heirlooms appeared. The main reception rooms were on the first floor instead of the more typical on the ground floor. King George IV was the guest of Richard Wingfield, 5th Viscount Powers in August 1821. [1] Mervyn Wingfield, 7th Viscount Powers inherited the title and Powerscourt, which consisted of 49,000 acres (198 km 2) of land in Ireland, at age 8 in 1844 . When he turned 21, he began an extensive reonovation of the house and created new gardens. Inspiration for the garden design followed visits by Powers to ornamental gardens at the Palace of Versailles, Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna and Schwetzingen Palace Heidelberg .Trädgården development took 20 years to complete in 1880. The commanding hilltop Cassels deviated slightly from his usual dark style, to give the house something of what John Vanbrugh would have called “air castle” – a severe palladian facade ends with two circular domed towers. The house was destroyed by fire in 1974 when it was owned by the Slazenger family and renovated in 1996. In the 1830s, the house was a place for a number of conferences on unfulfilled prophecies of the Bible, attending men like John Nelson Darby and Edward Irving. These conferences held under the auspices of Theodosia Wingfield Powers, then widow Lady Powers.

Tyrone House (1740)

Cassels designed this Dublin house for Marcus Beresford, Earl of Tyrone in Marlborough Street between 1740 and 1745. Less than Power House is said to be the first significant aristocratic houses to be built in the northern part of the city. There are good examples of Cassels’ robust sober style. The central Venetian window above the main entrance is the only example of decoration or frivolity to this dramatic severe facade.

Leinster House (1745)

Main article: Leinster House

The house was originally known as Kildare House after James Fitzgerald, the Earl of Kildare, who ordered Cassels to build it between 1745 and 1747. Intended to be Dublin’s magnificent mansion, the result could not have been disappointed Kildare. It is said that another Irish architect James Hoban, later copied facade Leinster House for his design of the White House in Washington (also Castle Coole designed by James Wyatt bears a closer resemblance).

Rotunda Hospital (1757)

Originally the main BB Dublin, it was redesigned by Cassels which converted it to a Palladian palaces, complete with a rotunda that gives the hospital its name.

Watertown House, Westmeath

Built for Gustaf Handcock-Temple in the 1740s. The house was three floors over basement and seven bays wide, was built of brick with stone facing.Cassel’s work includes a pigeon, (almost identical to Killiney Hill Obelisk) walled gardens, courtyard and grotto. The front facade was seven bays wide and three stories high over a basement. The house was abandoned in 1923. It was sold for scrap in 1928 when most of the house was demolished. [2]

Westport House, Mayo.

Built Browne, Westport House is a beautifully located two floors above the basement ashlar stone house overlooking Clew Bay in County Mayo. Cassel decided to move the village of Westport to improve the outlook from the house in öster.Det original house was quite small and was later extended by others.

Succession to Ireland

Richard Cassels died in 1751. His legacy is that he gave Ireland a distinct type of Palladian architecture all their own, to be fully appreciated one must consider the buildings simultaneously externally and internally, the restrained, even severe, but still large external facades, which does not jar the eye of the Irish landscape, gives no hint of flamboyance, even wild rococo opulence within. This is almost nowhere else in Europe, the cold grandeur of England’s finest Palladian mansions Kedleston Hall and Holkham Hall could not be removed further from the joy and the movement of the interior of one of Richard Cassels’s Irish Palladian interiors.

See also

  • Ballyhaise House
  • Bellinter House
  • Hazelwood House, Sligo


  1. Jump up ^ Dooley, Terence (2001). The decline in the large house in Ireland. Wolfound Press Ltd. ISBN 0-86327-850-7.
  2. Jump up ^ ‘Water: the rise and fall of a south Westmeath property “by Richard Coplen.